Integration of future water scarcity and electricity supply into prospective LCA: Application to the assessment of water desalination for the steel industry

Paul Baustert, Elorri Igos*, Thomas Schaubroeck, Laurent Chion, Angelica Mendoza Beltran, Elke Stehfest, Detlef van Vuuren, Hester Biemans, Enrico Benetto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

The urgency of tackling global environmental issues calls for radical technological and behavioral changes. New prospective (or ex ante) methods are needed to assess the impacts of these changes. Prospective life cycle assessment (LCA) can contribute by detailed analysis of environmental consequences. A new stream of research has taken up the challenge to create prospective life cycle inventory (LCI) databases, building on projections of integrated assessment models to describe future changes in technology use and their underlying environmental performance. The present work extends on this by addressing the research question on how to project life cycle impact assessment methods for water scarcity consistent with prospective LCI modeling. Water scarcity characterization factors are projected from 2010–2050 using the AWARE method, based on SSP-RCP scenario results of the integrated assessment model IMAGE. This work is coupled with prospective LCI databases, where electricity datasets are adapted based on the energy component of IMAGE for the same scenario. Based on this, an LCA case study of water desalination for the steel industry in Spain is presented. The resulting regional characterization factors show that some regions (i.e., the Iberian Peninsula) could experience an increase in water scarcity in the future. Results of the case study show how this can lead to trade-offs between climate change and water scarcity impacts and how disregarding such trends could lead to biased assessments. The relevance and limitations are finally discussed, highlighting further research needs, such as the temporalization of the impacts.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Early online date31 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • desalination
  • industrial ecology
  • integrated assessment model
  • new technology
  • prospective LCA
  • water scarcity

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